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'Don't Be Evil' tool alters new Google search results

January 23, 2012 |  3:44 pm
FocusOnTheUser.org

When Google changed the rankings of its search results this month, items from its Google+ social network -- such as photos, videos, comments and links -- got a boost at the expense of other social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter wasn't happy about the changes, which Google called Search Plus Your World, and made its dissatisfaction known. Privacy groups called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the changes.

But merely complaining about the new search results wasn't enough for a few engineers from Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. On Monday, the backlash against Search Plus Your World hit another level with the release of their Don't Be Evil bookmarklet, available on the new website Focus on the User.

The bookmarklet, which is a browser plug-in of code that alters Google search results to make them more like they were before Search Plus Your World, was built over the weekend by a small team that included Facebook's director of product, Blake Ross, and Facebook software engineers Tom Occhino and Marshall Roch.

The bookmarklet's Don't Be Evil name is a nod to Google's company mantra.

A statement posted on Focus on the User says:

When you search for "cooking" today, Google decides that renowned chef Jamie Oliver is a relevant social result. That makes sense," reads a statement on Focus on the User. "But rather than linking to Jamie's Twitter profile, which is updated daily, Google links to his Google+ profile, which was last updated nearly two months ago. Is Google's relevance algorithm simply misguided?

No. If you search Google for Jamie Oliver directly, his Twitter profile is the first social result that appears. His abandoned Google+ profile doesn't even appear on the first page of results. When Google's engineers are allowed to focus purely on relevancy, they get it right.

So that's what our "bookmarklet" does. It looks at the three places where Google only shows Google+ results and then automatically googles Google to see if Google finds a result more relevant than Google+.

Google officials were unavailable for comment on the bookmarklet Monday afternoon.

Facebook's Ross, who is also one of the three co-founders of Mozilla's Firefox Web browser and was spreading the word about the bookmarklet on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, has had a run-in with Google+ before: In August, Ross' Google+ profile page was temporarily suspended. Google never commented on why that happened, but Ross has said it was because Google didn't think the page really belonged to him.

Along with the launch of the bookmarklet and the Focus on the User site, a video (which can be seen below) explaining how the bookmarklet works, narrated by Ross, was posted to YouTube.

The bookmarklet isn't an official product of Facebook, Twitter or Myspace, but nobody seems to be shying away from the connection to those companies.

Where will this beef go from here? That's up to the involved engineers and anyone else around the Web who wants to dig in and write some code.

"This proof of concept was built by some engineers at Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, in consultation with several other social networking companies," Focus on the User says. "We are open-sourcing the code so that anyone may use it or make it even better."

RELATED:

Twitter blasts prominence of Google+ content in search results 

Google likely to face FTC complaint over 'Search Plus Your World'

Facebook Product Director Blake Ross temporarily kicked off Google+

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of FocusOnTheUser.org.

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